Will There Be Medical Innovation After The US Socializes Medicine?

Most all the world pays a marginal cost for drugs, medical devices, and procedures that does not come close to repaying the development effort that went into those products.  Further, most of the world has regimented medical systems that have very strong immune systems against any sort of innovation.

As a result, almost all medical innovation occurs and is paid for in the United States, with the rest of the world acting as a free rider.  Sure, some Swiss or Japanese firms still develop a few drugs, but most of those efforts are still justified by profits in the US market.

To this end, Megan McArdle had my favorite quote of the day:

we're still driving quite a bit of product innovation.  Our messy, organic, wasteful, unfair, irrational system allows experimentation, and they [Europeans] cherry pick the best results.  If we stopped doing this, their system would stop looking so good.

This is not to mention that the US tends to act as the capacity of last resort for desperate people in other countries who either can no longer tolerate the wait for a procedure or are not allowed by their country to have a certain procedure or drug.


  1. Esox Lucius:

    Oh, come on. Of course there will be medical innovation after we socialize medicine. It will just be paid for by tax dollars and only fund the politically correct diseases.

    The left hate the smokers and the fat people so you can kiss lung cancer and diabetes research good bye. But they love AIDS, Breast Cancer, and obscure diseases with frightening names that sound like part numbers, such as H1N1.

  2. Eric:

    Where are the statistics that prove the US pays for and subsidizes almost all medical innovation?

  3. Sean:

    What pharmacuitical industry are we talking about? Is it the one that spent a $1 billion on developing Prilosec to treat stomach ulcers only to be made a laughing stock out of by an obscure Australian doctor who CURED ulcers with cheap anti-biotics? Is it the same folks that brought in Nexium to replace Prilosec at 3 times the price and and 3% greater efficacy? Is the innovation in the companies that lease wheel chairs, walkers and other devices that get paid for many times over during the life of the lease? Our health care system has evolved around the payment practices of the Feds since the government already pays for nearly 45% of all health care. Do I expect fully socialized medicine to be any better or worse than half socialized medicine? Not really but at least in one respect it will be better... the clowns that run it will have no where to hide and no one to point fingers at.

  4. Chris:

    I was having this argument with a friend just today. He claimed that stem cell research is banned (it's not). I tried to find out how much funding of that type of research was still being done in the US but couldn't find any sources.

  5. Rick Caird:

    Sean, How about herceptin or arimadex. Let someone close to you get breast cancer and tell me how a great antibiotics are. How about neulasta after chemo to rebuild the white blood cells. Do you think that might have a good effect on the immune system?

    Only your basic idiot would give the examples you have and then conclude we will need not fear a dearth of medical innovaton. Do you really think health care is about wheel chairs and walkers. Anyone who wants a wheel chair or a walker is free to buy either and avoid the lease charges. Wow, what a concept.


  6. Foxfier:

    "People get hurt in car crashes-- so let's get rid of the internal combustion engine!"

    Ya want real progress, you have to have failure.

    Ask him how much funding goes into cancer research, nation wide. That's kinda equivilant to the question "how much money goes into stem cell research." Good heavens, what an over-broad question....
    Maybe try a google for "adult stem cell research funding" or "fetal stem cell research funding"-- I found things like this, from PBS and this from the Tulsa Beacon.

  7. the other coyote:

    A good friend had this experience her first week on the job as a surgery resident:

    A guy from Greece boarded a plane for Houston with a [slowly] dissecting aorta. Nobody in Greece could help him so he flew, by himself, commercial to Houston, hoping for a miracle.

    Which, by the way, he got ... at Ben Taub Hospital(also known as the Houston Gun & Knife Club...), when some wet-behind-the-ears residents refused to accept his aorta's decision to check out.

  8. richard:

    I don't understand.

    If the US would stop doing the research, wouldn't that mean that either nothing changes for the europeans or that the europeans would pick it up?

    Isn't the fact that us firms are doing the research based on the fact that it pays for american firms to do it? Why would they forgo such an opportunity?

    (joke alert) Are you proposing that the government should tax medical research, because of them evil europeans?

  9. WestWright:

    The Euros are backbenchers on US Pharms and US Defense....they wanted Obama and so now they can suffer the consequences like us US Citizens! Time to dump Odumbo!

  10. austin personal trainers:

    we'll have innovation on the order of that provided by the post office and other public bureacracies.